Writing a Novel on 12.9 Ipad Pro?

I’m considering getting one of these to continue writing my novel.

At the moment my ‘process’ is to handwrite into notebooks on the way to work. I tried using a laptop. But somehow it changed my writing style, and I didn’t enjoy it as much.

Handwriting in notebooks has been much more effective. I’ve written about 400 or so pages.

But I am very aware that at some stage I have to get this into Scrivener in order to then edit it and tune it up.

So, I have been considering a ‘hybrid’ approach. Namely:

1/ Getting a 12.9 inch ipad pro and then continueing to ‘handwrite’ every day in an app like Noteability or Goodnotes 5 with the Apple Pencil.

2/ Then converting the handwriting into text and pasting it into a Scrivener file on the ipad, when done.

3/ With the existing 400 pages I was thinking of scanning them into the ipad, and then converting them into text in Noteability or Goodnotes 5.

Once its in Scrivener I could then ‘edit’ it using the ipad keyboard case thing, once the whole first draft is in Scrivener (still quite a way to go for that. I reckon there are a good few hundred pages left)

I am loathe to just use the keyboard from the get-go. I actually like handwriting the novel. But it is feeling a bit daunting to think about the edit phase, after the first draft.

I wondered if there were any other Scrivener Peeps / Writers who had attempted some variation of this approach and any insights they had?

With the newest iPad Pro and the new Pencil, I write a lot. Not complete novels but most of my general note taking is now done by handwriting like before iPads.

I think your idea should work.

There are a few things you should know about iOS handwriting conversion.

  • Almost all of the note-taking apps use the same handwriting conversion engine by a non-Apple vendor, MyScript. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. MyScript’s conversion is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. It’s no use switching from app to app to try to get better conversion. Please factor in time to clean up conversion errors in your workflow.
  • I don’t believe that the apps you mention will convert your paper notebooks. When I’ve scanned in pages in the past, they’ve arrived as images which the conversion engine won’t touch–it will only convert handwriting that you’ve added via actually writing in the app itself. Please do check with the app developers first before relying on these note-taking apps to transcribe your paper notes–you may need another solution.

Hope this helps!

I would strongly recommend testing with a sample of your own handwriting before you commit to this approach.


FYI: Here’s a “handwriting OCR” app that might do the job for converting your paper notebooks–

Pen to Print - Handwriting OCR by Serendi LTD

Mind you, I haven’t tried it, but it claims to do what you want and has decent reviews.

Also, Penquills (iPhone) and WritePad (iPad) are little-known apps that provide handwriting recognition keyboards for iOS. They do not use the MyScript engine, and it’s necessary to select the character forms you use most in order to get good character recognition. But still, they enable me to handwrite directly into Scrivener, when I so choose. For me, it saves the (to me) tedious copying and pasting from a note-taking app.

Hope this helps!

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Interesting thoughts. I’ll do some more exploring.

I do wonder if use of the apple pencil and handwriting recognition isn’t something that ought to be included in the IOS version of Scrivener. A lot of writers prefer to write by hand, but then have to turn it into a word type file to send it to an editor, So it seems like quite a logical feature to have in the main Scrivener IOS program?

You can post a request in the Wish List forum—there’s always hope! As a former software developer myself, though, I consider it unlikely for a few reasons.

First, handwriting recognition is time-consuming to develop in-house. KB has his hands full with the app as it is—I can’t imagine that he has bandwidth to develop a handwriting recognition engine as well.

Second, all the note taking apps that use the MyScript engine are paid apps for a reason—I’m sure it’s expensive to license. If L&L chose to include this, I believe that the price of the app would need to be raised to cover the expense. Scrivener is already one of the more expensive apps on the app store. Would the additional sales from having HR available cover the lost sales from a higher price? Doubtful.

Finally there’s the question of how the MyScript engine would fit into the Scrivener app. The MyScript engine appears to be focused on adding a layer of text annotations to a graphic page. Scrivener doesn’t have graphic pages. I note that none of the other writing apps (ia Writer, Ulysses, Google Docs, Word, etc.) has handwriting input, either. Since some of these companies have much more by way of resources than L&L, I infer that just throwing resources at this problem doesn’t make it solvable—nor is the feature so popular that including it justifies the expense.

I therefore shrug and use my handwriting keyboard from WritePad. YMMV.

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Update on the Phatware keyboards:

For the iPhone: Penquills
For the iPad: WritePad I Handwriting toText

Other Phatware products don’t include the 3rd party soft keyboards that you can activate via the Settings app. The iPad app is still being actively developed.

Little update…

Tried out various handwriting apps.

The ‘best’ so far is Nebo. But it’s not very good. You have to watch what it thinks you are writing like a hawk, as you write it, and then correct it. Do-able. But practically speaking it totally throws you out of your writing mode, and into analysis, so not practical if you want to write ‘freely’, without going left brain constantly.

Pen to Print didn’t work well. Would take longer to correct the errors it made, then simply to type it out again.

I haven’t tried Writepad. But it had such awful reviews on the app store, that I am doubtful it would be a good solution.

Looking like I’ll have to resort to:

1/ Scanning in written notebooks into PDF.
2/ Going into split screen mode and having the PDF and Scrivener side by side, and simply retype it out, using the Apple keyboard I got with the Ipad Pro 12.9

Not ideal :frowning:

As an academic I used to type all of my papers - as an ex-academic now writing non-fiction I went back to writing by hand and found it liberating. Typing always brought out the academic tics I was trying to overcome. (There’s research on the hand/typing difference, but I think that in my case it might simply be my age and ancient habits. Decades ago I actually wrote my doctoral thesis by hand and then laboriously typed it up into Wordstar).

So I have the same issue. Sometimes it seems to work to type again, but more often than not I find it much easier to dictate my written prose into Scrivener. I find that the iPhone is a superb dictation machine, and that with an external mic the iMac is excellent too. I use the bog-standard Mac software: this is pretty accurate most of the time, and for technical terms and unusual proper names I use short-forms when dictating and manually expand when I read through. Just a thought.

After resisting for many years, I finally switched from paper notebooks to an iPad for notetaking. (FWIW, it was the combination of an iPad Mini and iOS Scrivener that did it.)

I still prefer paper for drafting, though. After many failed attempts and much investment in fancy pens and special notebooks, I’ve come to accept that my handwriting is incomprehensible to electronics – not actually a surprise, given how much trouble I sometimes have with it – and that transcription remains the best/only alternative if I insist on using paper.


Not sure how good the normal windows OCR software solutions are?


Am toying with the idea of scanning the pages to pdfs, and then trying running them through one of these. (PC is on the blink at the moment, so can’t do it at the moment) And then email the output to the ipad.

Anyone tried that?

Interesting relevant article here -https://medium.com/@gregbd/how-i-transformed-my-writing-workflow-with-two-apps-and-ipad-pro-apple-pencil-726da71ca26

Think I may have been harsh on My Script Nebo. Just tested it again, and if I am slightly more careful, the text recogition is actually pretty good.

Might also try the ‘dictating to Siri’ thing.

My suggestion is to finish writing the novel longhand as you are, either in the notebooks you’ve been using or in a tool such as Nebo or Goodnotes, and don’t use any kind of handwriting recognition tool. Just scan in your paper notes and use split screen. You will likely find that you edit as you type your handwritten text into Scrivener, so what you’ll end up with in Scrivener will be more of a second draft than a first, and your work will be a lot cleaner and more coherent. But wait until you’re done with the handwriting, if that’s the way you prefer to draft—you’ll learn things about the book as you close in on the end (likely things you won’t expect) that will help with the “revision” that you do when you type the novel in.


A combination of writing in longhand and typing into a computer/to a typewriter/etc. is a long and hallowed writing method.

Think of it this way… the first draft (in handwriting, in your case) is far from your final draft. Since you need to get it into the computer anyway, simply make your first round of revisions while you type the text into Scrivener.

UPDATE: I just tried out the “Pen to Print” iOS app, Scanning a copy of my best handwriting (i.e., easily legible to other humans) resulted in a transcription so garbled that typing it in from scratch would be faster than correcting the transcription line-by-line. I’m afraid I can’t recommend this app based on my own experience.

You can install a new keyboard named “sevyPen”. It will allow you to write with the Apple Pen and is converted to text and dumped into the open document. Works for email and most any app. You install the free app, and use the “world” icon beside the spacebar (left side). Hold down on the icon to bring up a list of your keyboards.

Hope that helps.

I’d strongly suggest dictating your handwritten pages into Scrivener. I have repetitive strain issues in my hands and so I do a lot of speaking rather than typing. It takes a bit to get used to but the technology has come a long way and I find it to be quite good (although there’s always a little correcting that needs doing here and there). The microphone button on the iPad’s keyboard is how you get going with that. You have to get used to saying things like “period” and “new line”, but honestly it’s a life saver for my wrists and sounds nicer to me than having to retype your entire manuscript.

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I second that. Not because any strain issue, but because I’ve found that reading your written text aloud is the best way to spot issues of flow, syntax word choice etc. If it doesn’t feel “right” when you read the text, there is room for improvement.

UPDATE: I’ve recently switched back to longhand cursive in a paper notebook for first drafts, and I’ve found an app that will actually make a decent transcription to text of a handwritten image!

The developer is M. Moshin, and they have several variants on the App Store. The one I’m recommending is “Best Handwritten Notes Reader”, USD $12.99 on the App Store. There’s also a free version, “Handwriting to Text Recognizer”. The free version has a limit of 3 images processed a day before it begs you to subscribe. I wouldn’t recommend subscribing though, even if you don’t mind software subscriptions, because it doesn’t correctly restore your purchase. But it’s fine to test the recognition engine.

I find that, while of course it’s far from perfect, it saves me time over typing my drafts in myself. From me this is high praise, and over the course of a 200 sheet or more draft, the time savings mount up. Well worth the $13.

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